Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Manipulation 101

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As I watch the elections, and go about my life, I am finding more and more manipulative behavior, and, sadly, I am seeing more and more supposedly very intelligent people falling for it.

So I asked myself, how do we combat this?

But let’s back up.

What do I mean by manipulative behavior?

Well, I mentioned the elections… and, on both sides, the most frequently used manipulations include tearing down a straw man- saying the candidate did, or believes, or supports, or is supported by something they do not. Now there is always a grain of truth in the straw man argument that allows people to say ‘they do so believe that way’ but it is not a whole truth, or a full representation of what the person believes. Then the media trashes the person running by making fun of what they supposedly stand for, taking sound bites or nuggets of information out of context that seemingly proves their point.

The other common logical fallacy that is prevalent today is taking things to an illogical extreme. This candidate said this therefore they must believe, or they have implied this horrible thing. If emotions were less high, every sensible person should be saying- but that is not what they meant. But, since we are whipped into an emotional frenzy we are now outraged that someone would ever say, support etc something so awful. Elections are usually pretty evenly split between the two parties- do you really believe that half of the country would back someone as awful as they are portrayed? Chances are slim and it is likely that the news sources you choose are playing on your emotions- But, do not listen to the other side’s news either, for they are doing the same thing, only since you do not like their candidate you will likely see the fault in their reporting more than you notice it in your own.

On another notes, I am also seeing this behavior on a local level. A few years ago I was part of a committee that was supposedly an important committee. We met, and seemed to make decisions; except we never actually made a decision and no one seemed to notice. We never voted. (Though I am sure the meeting notes reflected a vote… this is why approving the minutes and other parliamentary procedures are important- but we didn’t need to be formal.) Here’s what actually happened. We would meet. The group moderator, after someone made a point contrary to what he had decided would say, ‘let’s hear from the other side.’ He would end the discussion after someone from the side he agreed with spoke and then he would say something to the effect that it looks like the consensus is for whatever the last person was for (his side). Then he would move on. Since the last person who spoke affirmed what he wanted it did seem like that was the majority opinion and we were all happy to have been heard. He was very nice and understanding to those who thought differently and made everyone feel affirmed- but they were not going to overturn his agenda….

Another meeting I went to did vote, but before the vote they presented three detailed explanations for one side of the issue, and then presented responses as to why the opposition was wrong. (This was supposedly a balanced discussion.) They used a lot of emotional language that made it sound like we would be bad people to vote any other way than the position that was being presented in the positive (another common ploy). The vote was almost unanimous when the year before it was a highly contentious issue that failed. Either everyone went home and rethought the issue or their ploy worked.

The other thing I see is cooking the numbers and making them look different than they actually are. For example, in another meeting, we had one person show up from a certain population. Instead of saying only one person showed, they ran stats and said that a certain percentage of the population showed, which made it sound better than one. Not a lie, but it assumes that we are not going to do the math and realize that the percentage means one person showed up. Again, not a lie, but also not as truthful as one would like. This is where all that high school math comes in handy.

So what should we do?

We need to be teaching common logical fallacies, common manipulation techniques and statistics in a way people understand and remember. There are many books to do this from, and some historical examples of books that led to bad behavior that we should examine as to why people bought into these beliefs and how we can avoid doing so in the future. Logic is power. Mob mentality causes people to do things they would not otherwise do because their emotions rule. Right now we are being taken advantage of, and, even if you agree with the aim of the manipulation, it is still wrong. Let’s try to do better.

How can we do better. First and foremost we can stop reposting emotional, name-calling, illogical articles. If we post only content based on well-reasoned arguments and facts we will drive the media to want to create content that is less emotionally driven and more factual. Where you find such content I am not entirely sure. What I do know is that much of what hear people say is fair today is often what is leaning to their way of thinking… so be careful.

How freaky would it be to see two candidates actually debate the plusses and minuses of real plans, and concede points, agree occasionally and come up with something almost everyone could agree on (because it makes sense and takes into account most people’s needs and concerns)?! That level of maturity would be nice…

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Rules vs Priorities

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We live in a world that likes rules. We have ‘zero tolerance’ for fighting in school (one of my pet-peeves because the child being bullied is usually the one caught and punished the worst…), etc. But is this the best way to live?

God does not live by ‘rules.’

As we see in the Bible there are always times when God made exceptions. For a BIG exceptions see when God did not punish the women for prostitution as it was kind of the men’s fault in Hosea 4:14….

So then how do we live?

By the Holy Spirit!

But when in doubt, a list of priorities helps.

So ask yourself what is your first priority in any situation.

When dealing with your children it may be a good heart attitude. If your child fails a test because they spent their study time trying to convince a friend not to do something horrible and to do the right thing (and this is not a pattern of excuses used for not studying) then maybe we let this one go.

When dealing with your spouse, the priority is to strengthen your marriage. So when they do not load the dishwasher to your specifications or they do not wash your favorite shirt for when you wanted it, maybe we let this go and understand that they may have been working on another priority even you would agree should take precedence.

Rules are not bad, but they need to be flexible.

Too often we hold onto the rules as ‘right’ and forget why they were there to begin with.

For example, how many poems and wall-hangings have you seen reminding you that a clean house is not as important as time spent with your children? There is a reason for this. The older generation, who in the past liked to cross stitch etc was trying to impart wisdom to the younger generation. Sure, a clean house is nice, and to some level necessary, but it needs to take a back seat to being an involved parent who actually knows their kid. Children grow up so fast (trust me on this one!) that it would be a shame to not be the most important influence in their lives. When you obey the rules blindly you often prioritize things that truly don’t matter as much, such as house-keeping and work and lose the opportunity to bond with your child…

Don’t let your children grow up to resent you for not being there.

Don’t let your spouse distance her/himself because all of your rules are hard to deal with.

Be there for the people you love and make sure your priorities, not your rules, determine what you do next.

Making a list of your priorities and putting on a fridge or mirror is sometimes a good way to start.

You Think Wrong

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The other day I was reminiscing with someone (I have forgotten whom.. sorry) and I recounted a story about the Amish community taking down a barn for us in exchange for the trusses. The person I was speaking with informed me that I did not get the better end of this deal, as trusses are worth a lot of money. A while later I pondered that thought, as I know the Amish we interacted with would be deeply, deeply offended if anyone thought they would cheat another human being. (Some Amish may be different, but our friends would be offended.)

So I thought about the situation, and about what the Amish we knew would say. While I cannot be sure, one phrase came to mind… Their answer, “You think wrong.”

So, how do we ‘think wrong?’

We forget that life is not all about money. That things only have the worth we assign to them and that value is really arbitrary.

In my world, I had a decrepit barn that was dangerous and in need of taking down. If we had done it ourselves, it would have taken much of our time (much more than the Amish took since this is not where our skills lie) and we could have potentially hurt ourselves (as I said, we were not skilled in this area). Further, we would have buried and burned the trusses. We would not have taken the time and care to salvage them, and did not know their worth. We also wanted the job done right and well. (The Amish have a reputation for doing this.) Further, we liked the idea of our trusses eventually being a part of an Amish barn and we liked the Amish.

This is the intangible. The sense of community, the sense of good will and peace you get from working and trading with people you like and respect. Too many times I have made money, but from situations that have left me frustrated and stressed. Money is not the only factor one should consider in life. While one needs money to live (sort of- the Amish do well with less….), one must also consider other things. It is better to end the day feeling good, satisfied with how you lived, then to go to bed with a few extra dollars in your pocket.

The Amish community had a need, and we had a need. We helped each other out and enjoyed our interactions. What better way to spend a day?

Forgiveness

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Jewish tradition teaches that we must attempt to reconcile with a person 3 times. And, the person who is being asked to forgive must struggle within themselves to forgive us. If, after 3 times that person cannot forgive then the process is over and the person seeking reconciliation may stop trying. The person who cannot forgive is written off as a ‘cruel person’ and life goes on.

This is not what Jesus says.

Jesus says we must forgive 7 time 70 times.

If the person is truly seeking forgiveness (not mere lip service while doing whatever they want on the side- Proverbs tells us to avoid them while they are still like that), then we must continue to try to work on the relationship.

It will be hard- hence the need to keep forgiving. The past will come back to mind- and we must forgive again. There will be stumbles, and we must forgive. BUT, if the person is trying to reconcile and is truly repentant, the process is to go on, and on, and on….

Relationships are important in God’s world.

BUT, they need to be good ones.

The unrepentant who are angry, the purposely foolish, the selfish, the lazy are still to face consequences and be avoided. You are not a doormat needing to be unnecessarily hurt.

But these consequences are not meant to be cruel, but to cause a life change so that repentance is possible.

Everything is about restoring relationships to a healthy status.

Examine your broken relationships and ask:

Is the person repentant?

Are they trying to change?

If they are- help them!

If they are not, look to scripture. Find the problem in Proverbs and avoid the person if necessary. Sometimes we enable people to stay as they are because they are getting what they want from us, which is sometimes a free, no consequence, punching bag to let out their frustrations on.

Don’t be the punching bag, but don’t be the cruel person who will not reconcile with a person trying to do better either.

When confused, ask a wise- been there, done that, type person who has no emotional involvement in the situation for help.

Who not to ask for help?

People who are emotionally involved in the situation (or a similar situation).

Why: They have their own baggage, which will cloud their judgment. It is difficult to help someone forgive, when you are struggling to forgive. It is also difficult to tell someone to stay strong and avoid a cruel person, when you, yourself are enabling them. So, if you are contemplating divorce, find people who have struggled and overcome, not those who are in the same boat. Misery loves company, but it is a placebo and it does not do us any good in the end.

People who have never faced a similar situation.

Sometimes we encounter people who have families so perfect it makes you want to barf. These people have likely never encountered the type of people you are dealing with. Though sometimes they have dealt with these problems and have overcome your situation so it is good to do some research because this is exactly who you need to ask!

So who do you ask?

Someone who can be objective who knows something about what you are going through. Fortunately (unfortunately?) our world is so messed us these people are not hard to find…

You have Value- No Matter What You Have Done in the Past

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God is a God of redemption- a God who erases your past and doesn’t care what you have done. He is willing to forgive and use you mightily, so stop beating yourself up, stop repeating the past in your mind, and remember….

Rahab was a prostitute. (Just let that sink in.) She was not a virgin when she got married to Salmon, and her ‘number’ was probably over 1,000 (365 days in a year x a few years is quite a few men… Yet God used her to save the Israelite spies, allowed her to marry a very godly man, and she became an ancestor of Christ. If God can use her and give her a blessed life with a good man, then He can do the same for you! Stop feeling bad about your past and accept, and enjoy, the blessings God is trying to put in your life.

Bathsheba was an adulteress. Whether she enticed David, or simply felt like she had no choice we do not know, but we do know that she, and David, were unfaithful, yet she too was chosen as an ancestor of Christ, and David (who had her husband killed) was known as a man after God’s own heart and wrote many of the psalms. If God can forgive, and use them after what they did, then do not doubt that He can forgive and bless you!

Tamar was a woman in a bad situation. Her first husband dies, then her second husband dies. She is childless and sent back to her family in shame, even though none of it was her fault. God redeems her, and she too is one of the ancestors of Christ. The woman in Song of Songs is also a victim of circumstances. She believes herself to be ugly and her family does not take care of her. Still a king finds her, believes she is beautiful and thinks she is the most wonderful woman he has ever met. Life circumstances are not the end of the story. Life can change. Be ready to embrace the change and accept what God has for you. Too many stories end because the person believes the lie that they are not worthy and refuses to accept the blessings God tries to bestow.

Ruth is an outsider who is taking care of a widowed mother-in-law who has fallen on hard times. She lives in a cave for years after her husband dies, but her hard work and goodness is noticed and a godly rich man (who does not believe he deserves such a beautiful woman) falls in love with her and makes her his wife. She too becomes an ancestor of Christ. Persevere and your hard work and goodness will eventually pay off in ways you cannot imagine.

No story is ever so bad that it cannot be changed. Stay the course and be ready to accept the blessings God bestows. Too often we beat ourselves up and miss the blessings in our life because we think they are too good to be true, too good for someone like us. Stop thinking you do not deserve to be blessed. Step into the opportunities that present themselves as if you are truly forgiven and your past no longer matters- because it doesn’t.

So… How Does God View Our Not So Perfect Past… And Our Iffy Present State

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While the Bible is clear that God hates sin, God is not the hard-nosed disciplinarian many make Him out to be.

Let’s take, for example, Esther.

Esther is a good girl, who is picked, without her consent to be part of the king’s harem. She does not fight, or protest or try to escape. Instead she goes along with a system where she is to be one of many women whose sole purpose is to pleasure the king. (Many women in abusive relationships are told that they should have… (fill in the blank).) Esther is in a ungodly situation and yet she does nothing to effect a change. In fact she complies with her captures so well she is chosen to be queen. (God redeems her role in a way- though she will see her husband rarely and it is not exactly a love match.) And even though she is in an ungodly situation, she is still to be used mightily by God.

Rahab is a prostitute. When she performs her heroism and saves the Hebrew spies she is still a prostitute. The red sheet she hangs from the window is not the bed covering of a virtuous woman, nor has it seen only virtue in use. Yet god uses her, a sinner, and a sheet, a sign of her sin, as a sign and method of salvation. She, as a former prostitute, becomes the bride of a virtuous man (Salmon, one of the spies she saved) and is a mother in the line of Christ. How often do we shame women who were not pure in their youth as if it is a lifelong condition they can never overcome? This is not how God deals with a woman who has likely lost count of the number of men she has had…

David is a man after God’s own heart… Yet his list of sins is so long it bears numbering…

  1. He is an adulterer.
  2. He is a murderer.
  3. He ignored the fact that his daughter was raped and did nothing about it.
  4. He did not forgive his son who was obviously repentant and grieving for his father’s love. (Absalom)
  5. He did not come back for, or send for, his first wife, who risked her life to save his while he was on the run, even though he had acquired other wives whom he felt able to protect.
  6. He did not do justice in the case of Joab, Shimi and others, but left them for Solomon to deal with.
  7. He called for a census against God’s will, which resulted in a plague.
  8. He did not follow God’s instructions (or even know what they were) in carrying the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem the first time.

And I am sure there are more if we start to really pick through all that is written about him…

The point is that God still used David, and loved him, despite his mistakes. His mistakes in life did not disqualify him from God’s love, and did not take him out of the plans God had for him. Sure, he was punished, and if there was anything David did well, it was repenting (practice makes perfect?). But the point is that our past, even our recent past, does not change God’s love for us. It does not distance us from Him in a manner that is irrecoverable. God looks at our heart, not the tally sheet of nasty things we have done. It is our sorrow over our situation, not the situation itself, that is judged. It is what we are going to do next that is important, not what we have done. God wants us to love Him and to love others- not that we will be perfect, but that we will try to do better.

So we are to forget the past, in that it is not there to hinder us in doing what is right, and great in the future. And draw closer to God, realizing that He is there for us regardless of the condition we come to Him.

Love Thyself

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

To acquire good sense is to love oneself… (Prov 19:8)

… a good person gets satisfaction from himself. (Prov 14:14)

To act without knowing how you function is not good… (Prov 19:2)

Just a few things I picked up in Proverbs today.

  1. Know Thyself

How many of us try to please others and try to be someone we are not- working more on our weaknesses- trying hard to be perfect? Is it not better (happier, more fulfilling) to spend more time working in your strengths and using the gifts God did give you? This does not mean we neglect those things that must be done, but where is much of our time spent. Remember, a person who loves what he does never works a day in his life*. Be that person!

  1. Be Satisfied With Yourself

Do not seek happiness from others. Imperfect people cannot impart perfect peace. It won’t happen. Instead be content with who you are and what you do. Only then will you bring peace into your relationships. Focus on what you can do to make things in your life better (something you can control) and not on how others should treat you (something you will become frustrated trying to control).

  1. Love Yourself

God made you. He does not make mistakes. You are unique, wonderfully made. Find what you are good at; the gifts God created you to use. (It is typically what you enjoy.) And use your gifts! Stop seeing your uniqueness- your not being like others- as something bad. You are you for a purpose- embrace that purpose and love being you!

Some practical ideas to begin being you:

  1. Make a list of what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. (They are often the same thing.) Make these things a priority in your life.
  2. Make a list of what you hate doing, or feel you are bad at. Find a way to eliminate (delegate them to others- usually for the money you will make doing what you love- remember the Proverbs 31 woman had servants- you can too) or find ways to do them quickly so they do not take up much time in your life.
  3. Go to a thrift shop, a big one. Be honest about what you like and what looks good on you. (Do not take a friend unless you know you can both be dead honest with each other- you may come home with more of what she likes than what you enjoy…) Wear what suits your personality and makes you feel good. You should enjoy (or at least not hate- some of us are more utilitarian) getting dressed in the morning.
  1. Quit trying to make your husband/ friends like you or do what would make you feel special. Make a list of what you like to do, and if time and finances allow, do these things. You will find that people respond more positively to people who are happy/ content, and, when they see what makes you happy, and that there is a possibility of successfully making you happy, they are more likely to bless you in these areas. People like to know their efforts will result in success. Trying to make unhappy people happy is a daunting task that people instinctively avoid. If you can’t please yourself, how do you expect others to figure it out?

*Confucius- paraphrased

All verses from The Complete Jewish Bible- a translation by David H Stern

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